Fairytales v. Reality

[WARNING: topics discussed today might not be enjoyed by all audiences as some find them very offensive, and they might alter your enjoyment of romance novels. Read at your own risk.]

Today we’re going to go a round with reality v. fairytale.

Need coursed through Aaron’s veins like an all-consuming fire. He wanted her. Now. He wanted to make it known to him, to her and everyone else that she was his wife. His gaze swept her from her pale cheeks to her heavy, floppy breasts and all the way down to the tips of her pink toes that poked out below her silken nightrail. She wasn’t quite breathtaking, but she’d do. Not wanting to prolong the inevitable any longer, he snuffed the candles then moved to the bed where she lay and joined her. Dropping an obligatory kiss on her partially chapped lips, he reached down and grabbed a fistful of her nightrail, lifting it far enough to reach his hand underneath.

He took hold of her scaly ankle, then made his way up the gentle curve of her hairy calf. He squeezed and massaged her soft flesh, hoping it’d relax his new bride enough so not to put up a fight when it came time to join. The muscles in her legs relaxed a bit and  he dropped his face to the crook of her neck and inhaled the pungent aroma of her sweat.

What more would she allow him to do, he wondered as he reached his fingers up for the wiry hair that covered her intimate places like a thick carpet.

She squealed and clamped her legs together.

He grunted and withdrew his hand. He rolled off to one side and exposed his not-so-erect member. Aaron looked to his wife and frowned. She didn’t appear to be as interested in him as he was in her. No matter. This wasn’t for her anyway. It was only necessary to secure his heir and she should just be thankful he’d cared enough to try to relax her. Later, he’d go see Maude and she’d sate his desires.

He closed his eyes and dredged up an image of Maude. Her naked body glowing with desire–or was that sweat from all the exertion of a day’s night’s work? For the right amount of coins, Maude had no qualm about prancing around the room naked in front of him and she was always ready for his attention, her body slick and relaxed. Instantly, Aaron was hard.

Before something could happen to alter his state, he better situated himself on top of his wife and fumbled for a moment or two to find her dry, unrelaxed opening–scowling that he wasn’t quite as firm as he was a moment ago. He shut his eyes and imagined Maude doing unmentionable things to him. Problem solved.

Ignoring his wife’s shriek of discomfort, he shoved forward then rocked his hips, once, twice, thrice. Then it was over. His climax overtook him, sending his seed into his wife. With a grunt, he pushed away, gained his feet, grabbed his dressing robe and went to his clean bed, leaving his wife to call her maid to contend with the mess. With any luck, she’d conceive soon and he could put this unpleasant business behind him.


Was that romantic?

No. It was barbaric. But it was also much closer to reality than what we read about. The facts are:

  1. Even for Lords and Ladies, bathing was a luxury and something not done everyday. A personal deodorant was unheard of so there really wasn’t a way to combat the stench of body odor–or even bad breath, which was rampant due to the large quantities of alcohol and spicy food consumed. (I will add though, there were some who did chew on cinnamon sticks as a means to help with their breath, but this was actually more popular later.) Because personal hygiene as a whole was neglected, a lot of the things we take for granted: smooth skin and perfect lips weren’t common, either.
  2. Women shaving their legs is an Americanism. I’d personally always heard that it started during WWI when silk stockings were in shortage and ladies had to start working at factories in order to make ends meet while their husbands were away. Most of these factories, coincidentally, were making the weapons or supplies their husbands were using. However, there are also arguments and facts that say this trend began with the flappers in the 1920s. With shorter dresses, came exposed skin and the body became a thing of beauty and with it came widespread use of makeup, bras and hair removal. Either way, both of these theories take place around the same time, and for the same reason: their legs (and armpits) were now exposed.
  3. The entire theme of that unsightly “scene” is sex. And while it’s true that during the Regency that “love” was encouraged, that’s a false assumption in part. Love was encouraged as long as the family approved of the match. So it was really who do you like best out of these choices? Because A. most marriages were not genuine love matches, and B. ladies were thought weak and with sensitive sensibilities (and some were) the majority of men still frequented brothels or kept mistresses after marriage.
  4. There’s an old and recurring theme in a lot of historical romance that mentions the high percentage of subsequent children who are not biologically the duke/earl/viscount’s etc. This is very true, too. Not only was it common for men to have extra marital relationships, women did, too. Many women took lovers. Sometimes with the men they’d have rather married but were unable to. Sometimes with a close friend. Or even sometimes some would sleep with their staff. Though husbands didn’t like to think of their wives as sexual creatures because that was the commonly accepted (and longed for?) belief, some women really were and would take lovers.
  5. In case you missed it, this scene was their first time together. Historically speaking, and even today, it is very unlikely that a woman would find any enjoyment and most notably an orgasm during her first time.


However historically accurate any author claims to be, you will NEVER find the previous scene in a book. Why? Simply because it ruins the fairytale. Sure, people can get hung up on why some historic event wasn’t mentioned or why a character would act in such a way that defies our belief of the time. However, when it comes to the actual romance between the two characters, realism evaporates and the fairytale begins. Hairy legs, stinky breath, billowing nightgowns, unresponsive bodies and extramarital sex are NOT what fairytales are made of. Gentle kisses, soft caresses, beautiful, flawless skin, and matched desire IS.

So now that I’ve temporarily dampened your desire to read anymore historical romances, I must ask, which do you prefer, reality or the fairytale?

27 thoughts on “Fairytales v. Reality”

  1. I always wondered what idiot thought it was a good idea to have to shave their legs! Still wonder if it was a man or woman who thought it would be a good idea. Thanks Rose. It was eye opening for sure.

  2. First off you should have included in your warning not to be holding a bowl of cereal over your lap while reading the above. Sad to say my computer screen has cereal bits on it and my shirt needs changing, but I am not going to cry over spilled milk. Although my husband was quite upset that I wasn’t sharing with him what was so funny, at least not right away.

    I am sure it is not going to surprise you when I say I prefer a mixture of the two especially when it comes to wedding nights and I have read a few good wedding night scenes (like in Contract) where things weren’t so perfect but not so horribly bad either, Kind of like my own. Was that TMI?

    1. I really debated about posting this as I thought it might be “too much”. So the question is now, what did your husband say when you told him?

      TMI is (almost) always encouraged around here. Glad you liked the wedding night in Contract. It certainly bent the rule of what you normally read.

      1. Well I didn’t read him the whole thing but gave him kind of the gist of the the story. He did like the “She wasn’t quite breathtaking, but she’d do.” line. He just kind of shook his head at the rest of it.

  3. And if this was a scene from today’s life where the couple has been married for a few years, you’d have kids knocking on the door and ruining the mood right before the climax. Or you’d have the “Wow. Our bodies no longer fit as well as they used to when we do a certain position. Let’s try something that is more comfortable.” (And this is where experimenting the bedroom comes in handy.

    Fairytales, of course. Isn’t that why we read fiction? Otherwise, we’d grab nonfiction.

    1. That is exactly why we read fiction!

      I so need to have a book where a child comes up and knocks on the door during sex! I can only imagine what people would say to that.

      1. Oh PLEASE do, Rose! Maybe not while having sex but the kid could walk in on a good kiss or something. Maybe little Alex and Caroline’s little Edward in one of the Twins’ books. I would love to Alex scientifically explain that to his child.

      2. I’ve given Alex a rather comical in a childlike sense in this book, so maybe I’ll see about working that in this one for Edward to have to explain. Or maybe not, I don’t know, but I’ll keep it in mind.

  4. I agree with Ruth Ann’s comment: aren’t fairytales why we read fiction? It’s a means of escaping to another world for a time. And fairytales are timeless. I immediately think of all the Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast stories that have been refashioned over and over again by authors.

    1. I love both of those fairytales. I also don’t put a lot of stock in people’s claim to want realism because truly “realism” can only go so far before it ruins the relaxing mood of reading a book.

      1. I guess I am just different in liking realism in my books. I am not saying I don’t like the fairytale stuff but a really good mixture of both make me a very happy reader. While reading books is a nice way to get away from it all, more often than not it’s not very relaxing for me. I get too caught up in what is going on. If all goes so smoothly and everything is too perfect I don’t feel as connected to the book. When I was a young teenager I loved to read books where characters were dying or died in tragic accidents. The sadder the better. Maybe that’s why I still like books that are more real. Who knows.

      2. The thing is, finding the balance. I read a book a few years back where the main characters slept together three or four times in the book, the very last time was the first time he’d done anything to ensure she’d “finish”, too. Not that he’d been bad to her and needed to change and learn to treat her better, he just never stopped to think about what she was and wasn’t receiving until their last time, which coincidentally was nearly a year after their marriage. This was later questioned because if he was such a good and attentive husband, why did this go on so long? Well, the truth of it is that there are many couples who go YEARS with this same situation, but because it’s in a book and a book is a fairytale situation, it shouldn’t happen.

  5. It is the fairy tales that help us to cope with the reality of romance both historically and presently. The real secret is to keep it all in perspective. Making love during commercials on the Military Channel is not my idea of romance.

    A man could really improve his love life if he just read a few of the books his wife or girlfriend raved about. Try a few of the scenarios and he would have some very rewarding nights! Either that or get them to realize that watching the Discovery Channel’s broadcast on the mating habits of the praying mantis is not our idea of foreplay!

    1. Linda, as always, you crack me up!

      When my husband was still working, all the men in his department, told him he was the luckiest man they knew because all he had to do was read his wife’s books to know what to do to “romance” her and know what she likes.

      Uh, sadly for him (and them) it doesn’t exactly work that way for the person who writes the book. While I can read a really romantic book and which Bob said or did the things the hero did, it’s not quite the same when he tries to duplicate something I wrote.

      My favorite realism v. fairytale is in response to this paranormal craze and how people love reading about vampires, just remember that vampires are dead and have no blood, therefore, they cannot get erections!

      (Sorry, that was inappropriate, but it’s a favorite saying of mine that pops into my head when someone gushes about the vampire book they just read and calls mine too tame/boring/normal. My hero might be nerdy or “damaged” but at least his equipment works without having to suspend logic.)

      1. Gotta love you…..you know my middle name is “inappropriate” besides romance without an erection is like chocolate cake without the icing….or so I’ve been told. It’s been a while and once you hit 60 the memories fade in fact it’s been so long I think I might have blocked them
        out altogether!!!

        Functioning equipment trumps sexy bloodless vampires any day! (Deep thoughts by Linda Merrill)

      2. Well, Ms. Linda Inappropriate Merrill, I’m glad you enjoy a normal man with functioning equipment. Frankly, I do, too.

        However, I don’t even want to think about chocolate cake without icing. That’s a crime!

  6. Can I just say that these comments are cracking me up. I want to keep replying to all of them. I am not a fan of paranormal/vampire stuff but my husband has been watching all the old seasons of Buffy and Angel. He actually never watched Buffy when it was on but did watch Angel. Anyway, I have never thought about your comment, Rose, I might have mention that to husband tonight when he is watching one on his computer just to see what kind of reaction he gives me.

    Linda, if I had been eating while reading your comment my computer would have had food on it again. Thanks for the laugh and isn’t it so nice to know we aren’t alone out there with unromantic husbands.

  7. Rose, For us unmarried gals like me a scene like that in a romance book might just scare us off of marriage and sex completly. Although I have to tel you as I was reading that I was really glad I was by myself since i was just cracking up at the discription.

    1. Karen, the truth is sex isn’t as “wow” as romance books make it out to be the first time, at least for the woman. When I lost my virginity, I thought, “Is that really all there is to it?” LOL I was expecting this monumental easy orgasmic experience, and that just didn’t happen. It wasn’t anything like I’d read in romance novels. I will add as time went on and I learned how to help my husband along, I was finally able to reach the place where I could have orgasms most of the time. (There are times when it just doesn’t happen–too tired, kids are banging on the door, the back goes out thanks to age and the body not being as flexible as it once was. But overall, I’m very satisfied with my sex life. I can only say it’s gotten better, but it took time to get there.)

      I haven’t read Her Contract Bride yet (kids have been home all summer, and it’s hard to get anything done), but now my curiosity is piqued. Once school starts, I’ll have to see what is so startling about the first sex scene.

      1. Ruth I’m aware that sex is not like how it is romance books. I have enough married friends that arn’t afraid to inform me how it is. Although I figure I will be one well informed virgin on my wedding night. The above scene those cracks me up especailly when yout think about the fact that girls back then druing the Regency were pretty much told nothing about what to expect on except that the should lie there and think of their duty to England. No one could come out happy from that kind of arrangement.

        Rose I was just thinking you kind of hit on a scene like that in flashback with Patrick in Secondhand.

      2. It wasn’t quite that bad in Secondhand. I think it helped that he had at least tried to be accommodating to her, she just had no interest. And at least he felt bad about it, not longed for it to be over so he could go visit his mistress.

  8. I know it wasn’t that bad in Secondhand Rose. But it is probably as close to reality one could find for how it might have been for those poor guys back then if they married a girl that took to heart that they were not to enjoy sex, and that it was a disgraceful act (why anyone would come up with that idea is beyound me) Beside it was told in flashback and she was not the heroine so I think you are allowed more liberty in that case 😉

    1. Karen, it’s a bit too close to reality for some women today too. How’s that for confession? When I was first married (yes, I was a virgin) I loved everything about being with my husband except the actual joining. It is amazing we even have kids. Everytime hurt. Turns out there was actually a real reason for it hurting and no doctor ever told me until after my fourth child was born. Ten years of marriage loathing the act of marriage. Maybe that’s why I disliked reading mainstream romance so much until this past year or so. I have a much happier husband now and I am thankful he put up with me giving him the cold shoulder as often as I did.

      1. I’m sorry that it was a painful experience for you all those years. I guess I’m greatful to live in an age where I can look up information and try to figure out what is wrong. Those poor women back in the Regency, or even much before the 1960s really would have had no where to turn unelss they had some trusted married friends that had it figured out. For as strong as my sex drive is dispite being a virgin, I know I would be disapointed and frustratied if it hurt each and every time. I know TMI.

    2. It was very commonly thought to be “vulgar” and unladylike back then because A. the mess, B. certain parts of themselves would be exposed (and remember often their husbands were strangers!) C. Just the act of another person touching them there. In a time when it was improper to even mention any body part (stomach, heart, etc) exposing one’s self and letting someone TOUCH them there with something they didn’t even have or really understood the look/purpose of, it had to be difficult.

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